As chief sustainability officer at Anheuser-Busch InBev, Ezgi Barcenas is the architect of the company’s ambitious sustainability goals, which include a 25% reduction in value-chain carbon emissions by 2025 and achieving net-zero by 2040. Barcenas launched the company’s sustainability startup incubator program, now in its 5th year.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
We need a multitude of solutions and actions, but an often overlooked or underappreciated effort is climate adaptation. Climate adaptation is essential to build more resilient societies, ecosystems, and economies. At AB InBev, in addition to climate mitigation actions, we are working on developing tools for risk assessment, enhancing adaptation planning, and investing in local capacity-building across our global value chain. That includes introducing regenerative practices in agricultural communities and supporting ecosystem restoration and conservation with a focus on cross-sector collaboration and locally led initiatives to strengthen resilience and adaptability.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?
I believe that sustainability is the ultimate brief for design. If we design our products, processes, and systems better, we can improve sustainable development and better pursue purposeful innovation. I hope to see more corporations collaborating with entrepreneurs and peers across sectors to trial, advance, and scale innovative solutions. We launched the 100+ Accelerator program in 2018 to identify and validate solutions within our operations and across our value chain and, if proven effective, scale them globally. Together with corporate partners, the program has accelerated 116 startups working to advance climate resilience, water stewardship, and sustainable agriculture.
What is a climate technology that isn’t getting the attention or funding it deserves?
We need to continue bringing focus to the innovations that can help multi-solve for growing global challenges—for instance, solutions that address the water-energy-food nexus. Understanding interdependencies can help us avoid siloed-thinking and focus on initiatives that will not only deliver environmental benefits but also pay social or economic dividends. Agriculture must transition to sustainable practices to reduce its carbon footprint while ensuring food security. Responsible water management is critical for mitigating droughts, revitalizing ecosystems, and safeguarding public health. We need breakthrough innovation but also new mindsets that will embrace innovative partnerships and systems thinking.
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